What Is Your Crisis Selling Playbook?
- a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
- a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.
- the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.
It is late March 2020, and most of the business world is experiencing some type of crisis because of Covid-19.
After a recent financial crisis, Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated, “The financial crisis revealed important weaknesses in many areas of our financial system.”1
This quote, from more than six years ago, could be easily modified to fit our current headlines. The Covid-19 crisis will reveal important weaknesses in many areas of most business systems.
Companies have many systems that are being tested right now: Finance, Supply Chain, Operations, Technology, Customer Care, and Sales.
As an expert on Sales Optimization, I feel that I am qualified to state that any company that is not taking the time to create and use a Crisis Selling Playbook is putting their entire business at risk.
Let me provide some additional context to this statement.
Over the last few years, I have spent a significant amount of time guiding our clients to move their sales organizations beyond selling products or services. Our most successful clients have been able to pivot to an approach where they sell a solution that helps achieve their customers’ desired business outcomes.
When I say pivot, I truly mean pivot. This goes way beyond semantics or a simple training session on Selling Value. A sales process that focuses on driving customer’s business outcomes clearly requires a deep understanding of every aspect of your customer’s business. But it also requires a deep and comprehensive understanding of how all parts of your own business impact Sales Output and work together to deliver maximum value to your customers.
This level of understanding is a key to success in normal times, but it will be critical when we emerge from our current crisis and the resulting economic slowdown. Our customers’ businesses will need to change and adapt, so must ours. How are we using this time to start understanding and positioning ourselves to adapt to and help drive these changes?
The need to demonstrate business value is going to be more important than ever. If companies DON’T HAVE TO SPEND MONEY, they will not. If your business hasn’t reevaluated what you sell, how you sell it, and to whom you sell it to – creating a Crisis Selling Playbook – your company is at risk!
Starting last week, I began meeting with most of our top clients, sharing best practices and strategizing about the opportunities that this crisis will create. This is not about being an opportunist – like selling a roll of toilet paper for $25. This is about being a realist – understanding that companies that have the best plan, the best processes, and the best execution will fare much better than the companies that simply hope things will go back to our previous “normal,” because they are unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future.
If I were to put myself into the shoes of a sales leader at any company today, the first thing I’d want to immediately address is how well we understand our customers. How are they different today vs. January 1, 2020? Do we understand the different business issues of each industry segment that we sell to, and how they have been impacted? Are we aware of the business/personal drivers of each persona that we sell to? Do we have easy-to-understand apples to apples case studies that highlight why spending $$$$ with us will do more for a business than spending $$$$ with someone else? To be clear, this is not just about spending $$$$ with you vs. your competitors. In a time of crisis, or economic pull-back, this is about your customers spending $$$$ with your company vs. cutting back and not spending any money at all. Your customers or prospects are most likely thinking: “How is making my investment with you going to help my business? Why should I invest my limited amount of capital with you vs. x, y, z? Or, why shouldn’t I simply wait, and not invest anything right now?”
You and your company’s other leaders then need to work together to understand and adapt how all areas of your business are working together to adapt and respond to your customers’ new reality.
If I were a mid-level sales manager inside of a company, I would be fiercely focused on ensuring that every single salesperson was following our revised, best-practice process, using a real-time “Crisis Selling Playbook.” If you don’t have a current best-practice process, you better figure one out quickly. They might not say it to you directly, but your sales team is counting on you to help them survive. They need the new-rules survival playbook TODAY. Your customers are counting on you to help them survive, too. They’re certainly not counting on you to just sell them more widgets. How will your ideas, your creative ways of thinking help them to cut costs, increase revenue, improve the quality of their products, or decrease their time to market? While there are some exceptions, the vast majority of your top salespeople were and are already helping their customers to drive business value – they’re NOT succeeding because they could “sell ice to Eskimos.” Mine your CRM, talk to the best of the best, document all of their current and new best-practices, and do everything you can to ensure that every single salesperson is following the process. All things being equal, those who follow best practices will be more successful than those who believe that “their way has always worked, so it will still work now.”
As a salesperson, don’t be paralyzed! First and foremost, focus on your current book of business. TODAY, RIGHT NOW, prioritize and assess your top accounts. Why are these your top accounts? Given the current economic climate, are any of your top accounts at risk? It’s ok for you to call up your top accounts and ask them if they are safe and healthy, BUT THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. They are counting on you to be a business partner. What can you do to help them through this crisis? What are you learning/seeing in the marketplace? Is there anything that you/your organization can do that would bring genuine value to your customer, but would only cost you a small amount of time/money? Is there data that you could mine for them, new insights that you could share with them, business connections that you could make for them… anything to make a real difference? Is this the time that you can up sell/cross sell additional products/services, because it will help them to emerge faster and stronger? Show them that you care by helping their business to succeed.
Next, look at your target accounts. Apply the same rubric as above, evaluate them and prioritize them. Is the current crisis putting them at risk? How could your product/service help them right now? Can you show them that investing in your product/service will be a better investment than something else, or than doing nothing at all? If you don’t have this information, go to your boss, or your boss’s boss, the Marketing team and sincerely tell them that “WE HAVE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY, BUT I CAN’T CAPITALIZE ON THE OPPORTUNITY WITHOUT CURRENT DATA AND WITHOUT YOUR HELP.”
When the dust settles from this crisis, there will be winners and losers.
The companies, sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople who survive and thrive will be the ones that help their customers survive by delivering the most business value.
We’re hearing that “we will get through this together” quite a bit these days. We can and we will, IF we use this time to take stock of where we are, understand how things are changing and then adapt our approach accordingly.
This is what LIFT has always done and will continue to do. We are so grateful to work with strong, successful clients who have always pushed themselves to be even better. By working together, this crisis will bring out the best in all of us.
Do you have a Crisis Selling Playbook to deal with Covid-19? If you don’t, you need one NOW! We can assist you with creating the playbook, and deploying it within your organization. Call 773-405-6553, or email firstname.lastname@example.org today to ensure that your organization is prepared for the short-term and long-term changes that will happen because of Covid-19.
1 Jerome H. Powell, OTC Market Infrastructure Reform: Opportunities and Challenges. Nov 21, 2013